Naysayers of the Affordable Care Act continue to express fears that the much-needed young, health Americans are avoiding the insurance exchanges in favor of paying the $95 penalty next year. However, emerging polls and anecdotal evidence suggest the nation’s “young invincibles”—individuals in their 20s and 30s—are actually beginning to flock to health insurance.
In fact, a new poll from the Public Policy Institute of California suggests that young and healthy Americans are far more likely to seek health insurance than their older, sicker counterparts.
The findings “[run] counter to what a lot of people were expecting,” Gerald Kominski, a UCLA health care economics professor, told San Jose Mercury News. Kominski said he believes young people are signing up through ACA exchanges in droves, largely because of the subsidies that will keep health costs manageable.
“Not every young person will qualify, but many will—and that will make it easier for them to obtain insurance,” he said.
And these findings aren’t just resonating in California. In Illinois, health co-op Land of Lincoln said it has been pleasantly surprised at the number of young people choosing to get health insurance through the state exchange.
“It’s not just the old and the frail that are coming to health exchanges,” said Jason Montrie, vice president of channel and network development for the co-op. “We’re finding younger people gravitating towards the plans.”
Montrie attributes the surprisingly good news to the kinds of plans being offered through co-ops and other major carriers participating in the exchanges.
“In our focus groups we’ve never heard the young invincibles say they don’t want health insurance—just that the market isn’t providing them with the kinds of plans they need,” he said. “We take it as a responsibility to provide plans younger people find valuable.”
Hopefully, the California poll and Montrie are correct about the emerging trend. If not, health underwriter Teri Gutierrez sees tough times ahead.
Without the young invincibles, Gutierrez said the ACA risk pools will experience a “death spiral” where the only people enrolled in exchange plans “are those who are going to use it.”
“They’re the people who have health concerns, or who have been part of high risk pools in the past,” she said. “Consequently, that may cause the coverage to dramatically increase in price, which makes it less attractive.”